The Best Laptops for 2018

August 15, 2018

12:24 pm

If you’re looking to buy a laptop, then you might have noticed that there’s a dizzying range of choice and a large number of manufacturers. We’ve picked out six of the best laptops for 2018 – we’re confident these brilliant laptops won’t let you down. Not sure how to choose a laptop? No problem, we also cover the main specs and features you’ll need to look out for.

When buying a laptop, your first question should always be, ‘what do I need it for?’ The second should be, ‘what’s my budget?’

Get the right laptop for your requirements and price point and it will last you a good few years. You won’t be constantly eyeing up other new models online wondering if you should have picked them instead.

While you don’t want to overspend on a model that is stuffed full of cool-sounding features (that you may never use), it’s also important not to go too cheap. That’s why we’ve picked out laptops below that are fast and will last. They may not be the cheapest, but over the years they will prove great value.

Which are the Best Laptops to Buy?

These are the top choice laptops to go for, from under $800 to nearly $2,000:

  1. Apple MacBook Pro with Touchbar – an outstanding Apple laptop with a great screen
  2. Dell XPS 13 – super slim and portable
  3. Microsoft Surface Laptop – offers premium feel and performance
  4. Lenovo Yoga 920 – a laptop/tablet hybrid with plenty of power
  5. Google PixelBook – the best Chromebook on the market
  6. Acer Spin 5 – a stunning screen that folds back on itself

Apple MacBook Pro with Touchbar

  • Price: From $1,799
  • Size: 13 or 15-inch
  • Processor:  8th generation Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640/655
  • Screen resolution: 2560 x 1600

The must-have accessory for coffee shop regulars everywhere, Apple MacBooks have a long-established reputation for being expensive, yet high quality. If you know someone with a MacBook, chances are they’re evangelical about it and wouldn’t consider going back to a (whisper it) Windows model.

There’s a reason for this, too. Spend some time with the MacBook Pro, and this will soon become apparent. Not only is the Pro designed beautifully, but it runs like a dream too, powered by an 8th generation Intel i5 (good) or i7 (great) processor, and up to 16GB of RAM for silky smooth multi-tasking.

The Retina screen is pixel-perfect and crisp. It’ll look stunning whether you’re checking out your holiday snaps or filling in your tax returns.

The Touchbar, introduced in 2016, is divisive, and the jury is still out. Some love the extra element of control the slim screen above the keyboard adds, while others see it as a gimmick. More useful, arguably, is the fingerprint sensor. Coupled with Apple Pay, this means you don’t have to keep adding your password with each purchase, but can simply use a fingerprint instead.  

Yes, it’s expensive. The range starts at $1,799 and goes up to $2,700 if you want the most powerful model. However, it’s good value – your MacBook Pro will likely last you many a year, and turn heads practically every day.   

After a laptop for graphic design? See how the MacBook measures up to the Best Laptops for Designers

Dell XPS 13

  • Price: From $999
  • Size: 13-inch
  • Processor: 8th gen Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080

Dell’s laptop range can be somewhat spotty among the cheaper models, but there’s little doubt that the XPS 13 series is a real contender for those who want a balance of raw power and slim portability.

The XPS range feels like a premium laptop. For Dell, design has been a consideration since day one, and not just an afterthought – these laptops are genuine MacBook competitors.

The Dell XPS 13 is compact, with the company claiming it’s the smallest 13-inch laptop available. An impressive feat, and one that’s helped by the XPS’s impressively small bezel around the screen. We’re not quite at a frameless screen just yet, but this is a good compromise, accentuating the clear and vibrant screen quality.

The battery life has some serious staying power too. While we know not to take manufacturer’s statements as gospel, the 19 hours that the company claims shouldn’t prove too far off the mark, depending on what you’re doing. Coupled with the diminutive size (it weighs just 2.67 pounds), this makes the XPS 13 an excellent travel companion.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

  • Price: From $799
  • Size: 13-inch
  • Processor: 7th gen Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
  • RAM: 4GB – 16GB
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 (i5) / Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 (i7)
  • Screen resolution: 2256 x 1504

The Microsoft Surface Laptop is another model that wears its premium price tag on its sleeve – or rather its, Italian Alcantara fabric keyboard.

Yes, as soon as you open this up you can see where your money went. But, this isn’t just a smart dressed slouch – there’s lot of power under the hood too that will make short work of your daily tasks.

An addition to Microsoft’s Surface tablet range, The Surface Laptop, as the name suggests, is designed for the people who liked the Surface Pro tablet, but wanted a ‘proper’ laptop. Microsoft has delivered in style here.

The specs are powerful, with the laptop boasting a 7th generation Intel i5 or i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage. It’s a genuine competitor to the MacBook, and while it may not be as impressive in a few key areas (the PixelSense screen on the Surface can’t quite match the resolution of Apple’s stunning Retina screen), it’s a viable alternative for those looking for a stylish and powerful machine running the Windows operating system.

Lenovo Yoga 920 - tech.coLenovo Yoga 920

  • From: $1,049
  • Size: 13.9-inch
  • Processor: 8th gen Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2160

The aptly named Yoga range from Lenovo is notable for its flexibility, and is just one of the many hybrid laptops that can flip its screen all the way around to act as a tablet as well as a laptop. We’ve seen a real surge in these products in recent years, and practically every manufacturer has one, hoping to remove the need for you to purchase a separate tablet.

However, the Lenovo Yoga 920 is undoubtedly one of the best. It comes with an 8th generation Intel processor to power it along.

However, it’s the flexibility of display options that really make this Lenovo stand out. You can view it in the classic ‘L’ laptop shape, but if the need takes you, you can flip that screen back on itself and have a 13.9-inch tablet in your hands (yes, it has a touchscreen). There’s also the ‘tent mode’, which is great for watching movies and catching up with Netflix.

Lenovo even includes a stylus with the laptop, for annotating the screen or sketching. While the stylus has made a comeback recently for laptops and tablets (it turns out our fingers just aren’t that precise), few manufacturers actually include them. Given that one can run you to $100, getting one in the box is a great plus point for this Lenovo.

Google Pixelbook

  • Price: From $999
  • Size: 12.3-inch
  • Processor: 7th gen Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Screen resolution: 2400 x 1600

The Google Pixelbook is something of an anomaly. Traditionally, Chromebooks have been inexpensive laptops that run the Chrome operating system – a stripped back platform that makes full use of Google’s suite of cloud based applications but is, essentially, based around the Chrome browser. They are fast but low powered, usually incorporating mobile chips to run the show.

The Google Pixelbook takes the concept of the Chromebook, and delivers the most premium version available. It’s super-fast, with the option of a 7th generation i5 or i7 processor, making it one of the most powerful Chromebooks on the market.

It’s also super-slim, with a 10.3mm thick body that means it can slip into any bag almost unnoticed. Plus, it has a 10-hour battery life, making it ideal for working or playing on the go.

Everything about the Pixelbook feels like it has been designed within an inch (or in this case, millimeter) of its life and even suggests overkill for the purposes of a Chromebook. But, the end result is a truly premium Chromebook that looks future-proofed for some time to come.

Acer Spin 5

  • Price: From $799
  • Size: 13-inch to 15-inch
  • Processor: 8th gen Intel Core i5 – Intel Core i7
  • Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Graphics / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • Screen resolution: 2256 x 1504

The Acer Spin 5 is one of the cheapest laptops on this list, but don’t assume it’s under-powered.

It features an 8th generation Intel processor, so you’ll be up and running with daily tasks without issue, and the 8GB of RAM means that it can multitask smoothly.

At the top end of the range, you can even opt for an integrated graphics card. While this won’t be able to compete with a dedicated gaming rig, it will certainly hold its own, and prove a good portable solution for those who want to do a spot of gaming (or graphics editing) on the move.

The solid state drive (SSD) gives fast load times for your apps and on booting up, and at the top end it offers the best of both worlds with a combination of SSD and HDD, offering fast speeds and loads of storage.

Like the Lenovo Yoga, the screen can be pushed all the way back, flat against the rear of the keyboard, to convert the laptop into a tablet-esque device. Acer is also kind enough to include a stlyus in the box too.

Laptop Specs to Look For

When you’re choosing a new laptop, it’s important to understand the specs and features you’ll see listed by each model. That way, you can be sure to choose the right laptop for your own particular needs.

Processor – For the most part, laptops either have Intel chips (i3, i5 or i7 in order of least powerful to most) or AMD processors. An Intel i3 is fine for basic day-to-day browsing, while an i7 is needed for graphic design work.

Screen Quality – You’ll see the screen detail listed in pixels, and generally speaking, the more pixels, the sharper the screen. All modern laptops have Full HD screens for ultra-sharp quality, though we’re starting to see more and more 4K models appear on the market.

Storage Space – The hard drive or solid state drive (SSD, a modern type of storage that makes the laptop run faster) is where you can store your files, apps, and the operating system itself. If you need to store masses of photos and video files, you’ll need at least 1TB (1 terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes) of storage, though you can get by with less (even 256GB) if you save most of your files to the cloud.

RAM – This differs to the hard drive/SSD storage. Instead, it’s a temporary type of storage that helps with multitasking or swapping between programs. RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB). These days, 8GB is considered pretty standard, while anything over 16GB is probably overkill unless you’re doing design work.

Graphics Card – For most standard uses (web browsing, watching videos) you shouldn’t need a high-end graphics card. These are only essential if you want to do a lot of gaming or graphic design work.

The Best Laptop Brands

There are plenty of laptop brands vying for your attention, but there’s only a handful that really deserve it, based on their past reputation and excellent product line-up.

Needless to say, Apple is probably the most notable, and it’s hard to argue about the impact this major brand has had on the laptop space with its MacBook range. Apple has always been a leader when it comes to marrying design and function, and it’s not surprise that many of the other laptops on our list take their cues from the computing giant. While its MacBook Pro range can be eye-wateringly expensive, its standard MacBook range has become more affordable over the years, and is a good entry point for those curious.

Microsoft may not be the first name you think of when it comes to hardware, but it has clearly been keeping an eye on the premium laptop market, and the Surface Laptop and Surface Book 2 (a laptop with a detachable screen) ooze quality.

Dell offers a wide range of models for all pockets, from the XPS mentioned here to the more everyday 5000 & 7000 series which may not turn heads but are capable workhorses. In recent years, Dell has branched out from traditional laptop design and now offers a selection of 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrids.

Chinese brand Lenovo also has a wide selection of  laptop/tablet hybrids, but has also tried to capture the corners of market that some manufacturers can’t. It has a selection of laptops starting from under $200 that can run Windows, making them appealing to students and light laptop users.

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Jack is a senior writer at Tech.co with over a decade's experience researching and writing about consumer technology, from security and privacy to product reviews and tech news.

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